Film: Crimson Tide
Director: Tony Scott
Writer: Michael Schiffer
Starring: Gene Hackman, Denzel Washington and Matt Craven
This film begins with two men at a birthday party. The party is for the daughter of Denzel Washington. His friend is played by Viggo Mortensen. They both are seamen in the United States Navy. Washington goes to change the battery in his video camera and sees on the television that a fanatical Russian has rebelled and taken control of a nuclear weapons base, he is played by Daniel von Bargen. Mortensen joins Washington in the kitchen and they know.
Washington then interviews with Gene Hackman, who is the Captain of the U.S.S. Alabama. Along with him is the chief of the boat, played by George Dzundza. Even during this interview they clash and you get the feeling that is going to happen more, but Hackman still agrees to have Washington join his crew.
Mortensen is also part of this crew; he is in control of the weapons. The communication officer is played by Matt Craven and there is also James Gandolfini and Rocky Carroll. We see that Gandolfini early on is a bully and a jerk.
Some of the other crew is Danny Nucci, who supervises the sonar. There is also Eric Buskotter, Ricky Schroder, Steve Zahn, Scott Grimes and Ryan Phillippe in minor roles.
The submarine goes under and it is to patrol the waters near the base that Bargen has taken over. They have nuclear missiles on board and they are there to ensure that none are fired at the United States. They will attack in a pre-emptive strike to prevent an attack. Early on Hackman pries at Washington and we learn that they are two different types of people. Hackman will blindly follow orders and does not think for himself, while Washington asks why and wants to ensure he is making the correct decision, even if it goes against the orders.
There is a fire in the kitchen and Washington helps to put it out. He was working out when it happened and he was close. Right after it has been taken care of, Hackman calls for a drill to ensure that they can the missiles ready as fast as possible. During this, Washington returns the bridge and questions Hackman’s orders. The drill is cut short when a crew member is in cardiac arrest from the excitement in the kitchen. This crew member ends up dying. Hackman also takes Washington aside and tells him to never question him in front of the crew again. He tells him that he needs to take him aside or bite his lip; he doesn’t want the slightest sign of mutiny.
Their orders then come in and they are to fire on the base. In one hour, Bargen’s missiles will be ready to launch. They encounter an enemy submarine though and have to dive. As they are diving, a communication comes through, but it is fragmented. Washington tries to bring this to Hackman, but he ignores it. They avoid the enemy submarine.
Once they have gotten past it Washington asks to go back up to receive their orders, but he is denied. The reason is that submarine is still in the area. Hackman continues with preparing to attack. Washington then asks for permission to send up a buoy that will give them radio frequency. This is granted. The problem though is that as it is going up, the winch jams and makes a loud noise. The enemy sub hears them and fires torpedoes. The U.S.S. Alabama dodges them and dives down to hide.
Hackman still prepares to fire the missiles, but is relieved of his command by Washington. Hackman actually tries to relieve him first, but he cannot per Naval protocol. Dzundza makes the correct decision by agreeing with Washington and has Hackman escorted to his quarters.
Now with Washington at command, he brings the submarine up to get radio signal. The problem is he brings it up too close to the enemy submarine. They again maneuver to avoid their torpedoes. They fire back and get a direct hit, but the Russian sub fires off one last shot. This one hits and the U.S.S. Alabama is going down. They lose communications and need to seal off a chamber to ensure they do not sink.
Gandolfini is still completely loyal to Hackman and they come up with a plan to mutiny themselves and regain the submarine. They enlist the aid of Craven and Carroll. They end up swaying Mortensen to join them as well. Washington will not sit idly by after he loses command of the ship though. He gets Nucci and some others to help him. He also pushes Lillo Brancato to fix the communications before it is too late.
What will they do? Will they finally do what Hackman wants and fire nuclear missiles at this base, because they have not been told otherwise? Or will they listen to reason and Washington and wait to see what this last message states?
I have to say that first off, this has a great cast of actors. Washington and Hackman going back and forth are great. What makes it even better though is that this starts off from the very beginning and just escalates. The rest of the supporting cast is great as well. There is not much in the way of story, but that it is amazing that this was the protocol for something as important as creating World War III and nuclear holocaust. I do also have state that I love the claustrophobic feel this film creates being in a submarine. Being stuck with someone who are not getting along with is magnified, because there is no where to go. Plus the fate of the world rests in the balance and your hatred grows, helps to build up the boiling point.
My biggest issue is that there isn’t much of a story. I am not going to hold it against a film like this, because it is much more on the actors. A film like this needed to have a cast like it does, or it will fail. Everything is put on the acting and the characters, which I think they lived up to. I also was disappointed in Mortensen; he was friends with Washington outside of the submarine and then falls to peer-pressure almost immediately. I am not in the military, so I understand that personal feelings and duty are two different things. Also if he does not do what he does, then the film does not progress, but I still wanted to point it out.
I am adding this film to the horror film research for the fact that you have two men who could decide the fate of ending the world. You have one who blindly follows protocol and the last order he received was to fire nuclear missiles, which is what they are supposed to do in this situation. On the other side you have the man who listens to reason and wants to make the right decision. Now they are both trapped in a submarine, under the ocean with tension mounting. That is why this is added to this research.
I would recommend giving this film a viewing, especially if you are a fan of thriller films that deal with war. If you like Washington, Hackman or just want to see a film with great acting across the board, then watch this film. The story is pretty basic, but it does point out a procedure in the military that was not very smart at the time. It mirrors the Cuban Missile Crisis except without having access to communication and more modern. This one is a very good film.
My Rating: 8 out of 10